Thursday, November 14, 2019

Kazakh New Wave

“Of all the collective creative surges that have arisen in the cinema within the last thirty years, perhaps the quietest, least trumpeted, and most enigmatic was the Kazakh New Wave, beginning in the mid-1980s. The films of Serik Aprimov, Sergei Dvortsevoy, Ardak Amirkulov, Amir Karakulov, Ermek Shinarbaev, and Darezhan Omirbaev were unusual on every possible level—uniformly bestilled, lovingly crafted, modest to a fault, and extremely attentive to great and lonesome expanses of time and space.” — Kent Jones

I hadn’t encountered any mention of the Kazakh New Wave when I was hunting down films from various international countries more than a decade ago. However, over the last year few years, I read a few references to it especially whenever I came across a new film from Kazakhstan at a film festival. When I recently read Kent Jones’ article on the Kazakh film Revenge, the words “the quietest, least trumpeted..” stood out and haunted me.

The reason certain waves of cinema gain prominence doesn’t only have to do with where the films are first seen but also has to do with who is seeing those films and who is spreading word about them. If no major critics see initial works of a new Cinematic movement, then those initial works will likely be ignored by other festivals or distributors. To make matters worse, subsequent films from those directors will be overlooked. As a result, a potentially new Cinematic movement or wave may have formed and even achieved a high point but it would not register anywhere. One obvious example of such ignorance is related to Indian cinema. There have been quite a handful of movements that have taken place in Indian cinema such as the Parallel Cinema movement which reached a high point in the 1970s and early 1980s yet is still largely unknown among Western critics. Further new movements in Indian cinema related to independent movies (late 1990s such as those directed by Kaizad Gustad and Nagesh Kukunoor) and the new wave of urban movies in the mid to late 2000s (such as those of Dibakar Banerjee or Anurag Kashyap) again went unnoticed. A new wave of Indian cinema was developing but no one noticed. Thankfully, this same fate hasn’t fallen on Kazakh cinema as evident by a handful of articles related to the Kazakh New Wave. The works may not be well known but they aren’t forgotten. A big part of my coming across this wave was down to Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema project No.2 and its inclusion of Ermek Shinarbaev’s 1989 feature Revenge.

Naturally, Revenge forms most of the reading material related to the Kazakh New Wave, starting with the Kent Jones article referenced above:

1. Acquarello on Revenge
2. Tanner Tafelski with an insightful interview with Shinarbaev
3. Five other vital directors from Kazakhstan
4. Shaken Aimanov: the man at the core of Kazakh Cinema
5. There is even a book about cinema in Kazakhstan which I have to hunt down: Film and Identity in Kazakhstan by Rico Isaacs

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Czech New Wave

A long time ago, once I discovered the beauty of World Cinema, I feverishly tried to work my way through all the essential films. Part of this journey meant taking the path down all the critical waves of cinema. A few films from the Czech New Wave were quickly checked off my list with as many VHS tapes (??!!!) that I could find. Then when DVDs came along, I managed to get a few more in. Blu-Ray and streaming followed but over the years, I stopped exploring the past because I was too busy viewing contemporary films including those from the Czech Republic or trying to catch the new cinematic wave. However, as it turns out, I never finished my due diligence when it came to the Czech New Wave which constitutes films from the early 1960s until 1968. I saw the following essential films but there are many more to discover still.

Diamonds of the Night (1964, Jan Nemec)
Loves of a Blond (1965, Milos Forman)
Closely Watched Trains (1966, Jiří Menzel)
Daisies (1966, Vera Chytilová)
Marketa Lazarová (1967, František Vláčil)
The Fireman’s Ball (1967, Milos Forman)
Capricious Summer (1968, Jiří Menzel)
The Joke (1969, Jaromil Jires)

Over the next few weeks, I will be diving back into the Czech New Wave. Thankfully, there is plenty of essential reading material to assist me in my journey.

1. A list of films to chase thanks to Zeppo on mubi
2. Surrealism in and out of the Czech New Wave
3. Vera Chytilová
4. Drahomíra Vihanová
5. Czech Rule Breakers
6. Taste of Cinema with 10 Essential films
7. Key films and directors
8. Tanner Tafelski on the films that inspired the Czech New Wave. In essence, a precursor to the Czech New Wave.

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Two films by Lino Brocka

Manila in the Claws of Light (1975, Philippines, Lino Brocka)
Insiang (1976, Philippines, Lino Brocka)

“The film is the same….It’s your eyes that have changed.”Pain and Glory (Pedro Almodóvar)

The above words from Pedro Almodóvar’s Pain and Glory came to my mind recently when I revisited two of Lino Brocka’s essential films. In Almodóvar’s film, the film director Salvador (Antonio Banderas) praises the acting of his lead Alberto (Asier Etxeandia) more than three decades after their movie Sabor came out. Back in the day, Salvador disliked Alberto’s performance in Sabor and stopped talking to him. When a local cinematheque plans to hold a screening of Sabor, Salvador decides to revisit the film and mentions that he appreciates Alberto’s performance and he feels it has gotten better. The above line is the response to Salvador because it is still the same film but Salvador’s life has changed and thereby his ability to critique his own film.

I had a similar reaction when I revisited Brocka’s films after more than a decade. I found my appreciation of these films has increased with time. They are still the same films albeit I saw them in a better print. It is in fact my eyes that have changed and I found it exciting to compare the newer Filipino movies with that of Brocka's and draw a line from his cinema to that of directors he has clearly influenced such as Lav Diaz and Brillante Mendoza. Back in the late 1970’s, Brocka put Philippine cinema on the map and Insiang was the first Philippine film to play at the Cannes Film Festival (1978).

Some reading material on these films:

1. Cinema Scope
2. Culture Trip
3. Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation
4. Criterion
5. Noel Vera, Insiang
6. Noel Vera, Manila in Claws of Light